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OLPC Set To Dump x86 For Arm Chips In XO 2 274

Posted by timothy
from the just-make-it-faster dept.
angry tapir writes with this excerpt from Good Gear Guide: "One Laptop Per Child is set to dump x86 processors, instead opting to put low-power Arm-based processors in its next-generation XO-2 laptop with the aim of improving battery life. The nonprofit is 'almost' committed to putting the Arm-based chip in the next-generation XO-2 laptop, which is due for release in 18 months, according to Nicholas Negroponte, chairman of OLPC. The XO-1 laptop currently ships with Advanced Micro Devices' aging Geode chip, which is based on an x86 design."
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OLPC Set To Dump x86 For Arm Chips In XO 2

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  • Full Windows on ARM (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hal_Porter (817932) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @02:47PM (#27170893)

    From TFA

    "Like many, we are urging Microsoft to make Windows -- not Windows Mobile -- available on the Arm. This is a complex question for them," Negroponte said.

    OLPC is in talks with Microsoft to develop a version of a full Windows OS for XO-2, Negroponte said. The XO-2 is still 18 months away from release, so "a lot can change with regard to Microsoft and Arm," Negroponte said.

    I don't really see this working. Windows has run on Risc before of course, but almost no one ported their applications to any of the Risc platforms. And a top of the line Arm (a Snapdragon or Cortex A8) is still less powerful than a bottom of the line x86 (Intel Atom), so it's not like you can run x86 binaries at an acceptable speed through emulation, like Dec tried with FX!32 on the Alpha.

  • by pwizard2 (920421) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @02:49PM (#27170935)
    I seem to recall seeing something awhile ago that Ubuntu is being ported to the ARM architecture. If the port is ready, using it would be a much better proposition than begging Microsoft to make a custom Windows OS for the XO-2, IMO. What would stop Microsoft from deliberately crippling the OS (and making it practically useless as a result) like they did with the starter editions of XP and Vista? Those were meant for the same type of market demographic as OLPC, after all.
  • Time for OS X (Score:5, Interesting)

    by macs4all (973270) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @02:55PM (#27171031)

    I remember clearly that /. reported that Steve Jobs had originally agreed to license OS X to the OLPC project for free (as in beer), but that the offer was refused.

    Since it is a well-known fact that Apple has had OS X working on an ARM architecture in the iPhone and iPod Touch for nearly 2 years now, it would seem a no-brainer at this point for OLPC to take Apple up on their offer.

  • by glop (181086) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @03:00PM (#27171095)

    Well, actually the netbook makers such as Asus are trying to move towards ARM-based machines with Linux so that they can reach much lower price points.
    In some way it makes more sense than the x86 Linux offering they had: why pay for x86 compatibility if the users aren't going to be able to install Word or the windows drivers for the printer they just bought? You might as well go fully incompatible and buy cheaper chips that use less power etc.
    As nobody had predicted the success of netbooks and the reasons of that success are not completely clear, it makes sense to try the ARM approach just in case it's going to be very successful.
    I believe that some people run AmigaOS on their netbook by the way ;-)

  • Poor OLPC (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bbasgen (165297) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @03:05PM (#27171169) Homepage

    "Like many, we are urging Microsoft to make Windows -- not Windows Mobile -- available on the Arm. This is a complex question for them," Negroponte said. OLPC is in talks with Microsoft to develop a version of a full Windows OS for XO-2, Negroponte said. The XO-2 is still 18 months away from release, so "a lot can change with regard to Microsoft and Arm," Negroponte said.

    They jettisoned Sugar, and they keep courting Microsoft. So sad. I wish the article would have explored the "open source" hardware concept. No idea what the heck that means from the article or for OLPC:

    OLPC can't implement all its ideas in XO-2, so it ultimately wants to "open source" the hardware design to other PC makers for use in building devices, McNierney said. He hopes that opening up the hardware design will spur the development of a "rich family of devices" that accelerate the adoption of the XO-2 technology.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @03:09PM (#27171235) Journal
    I doubt that the OLPC project is feeling warm and fuzzy about intel; but I don't think that that is the reason for ARM vs. Atom.

    Thing is, to fulfill its objectives, the XO-2 has to be cheap, really cheap, to make. Atom based netbooks, even for the lowest spec models, in a highly competitive free market optimization process, have essentially failed to crack the $200 mark. Most are $300-$400. The OLPC guys really want less than $100. At this point, a $200 Atom netbook has already been cut to the bone, very little left(you might be able to cut out the ethernet jack and VGA; but you'd need to add the wireless mesh chip, and the more rugged case, it'd be a wash). Expecting that branch of development to halve in cost in the near future is pretty implausible.

    That, rather than bitterness, is most likely the real reason. ARM is available, from a variety of vendors, at price/performance points that scale relatively smoothly from highish-end microcontrollers to modestly powerful laptop chips. x86 isn't(not yet, anyway).
  • Re:Time for OS X (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fpophoto (1382097) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @03:12PM (#27171285) Homepage Journal
    Then Apple better get some work done. The most failure prone piece of software currently on my ipod touch is Safari.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 12, 2009 @03:15PM (#27171329)

    I'm pretty sure the scope of the OLPC is not for commercial use. Why would anyone care if it runs Windows? It's a computer. It's better than nothing.

  • by Verdatum (1257828) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @03:20PM (#27171413)
    Indeed, Windows Mobile (or CE or HPC) was a total rewrite, Even Windows 7 potentially has some DOS 1.0 code, but not WM. It took that much effort to get ARM working. It's actually a comparatively Sturdy OS, it just doesn't have enough decent software built for it.

    I had a MS-DOS EMU app for my HP Journada 720 (Windows HPC on a 255Mhz ARM chip), and for anything beyond rudimentary shell type commands, it was unusably slow.

    Linux + ARM however would be lovely. I've got all sorts of daemons crunching instructions on my Western Digital MyBook World NAS. Still, by default, I believe they lack an FPU. I wonder if they'd add a coprocessor...
  • Re:Time for OS X (Score:2, Interesting)

    by macs4all (973270) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @03:48PM (#27171855)

    Do you honestly think it would be MORE work than porting XP to ARM? Or Ubuntu (which I gather has NOT been sucessfully ported to ARM yet). I believe there are embedded Linuces that do run on ARM, but those are not "desktop" distros any more than you claim that the iPod Touch/iPhone version of OS X is. So, what's your point?

    I never said that it would just be a matter of downloading the iPod Touch firmware into an OLPC machine and rebooting. But remember this: We're talking about a FUTURE product, not an existing one. If the decision were made to go with OS X, don'tcha think that the OLPC engineers and Apple's could come to some hardware consensus that would make porting OS X a simple(r) task.

    Say what you want about Apple and NextStep/Rhapsody/OS X, but I believe that most slashdotters will agree: It is a VERY platform-agnostic OS. After all, versions of OS X already run on at least 3 vastly-different CPU architectures now (PPC G3, PPC G4/G5, x86, ARM10 (IIRC)). Do you really think that Apple isn't up to the task of adding a 4th, 5th, 6th in a reasonably short period of time?

  • Oh dear God no (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Weaselmancer (533834) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @04:23PM (#27172397)

    I'm a developer who ports Windows CE to devices. All day, every day. Teach classes on it even. Been doing it since CE 3.0. Currently on 6.0.

    CE makes a passable embedded/PDA device, but there is no way in the world you'd want it on a laptop.

    It just isn't made for that kind of a setup. No native compilers, no swap file. Expensive license restrictions. It's less like a computer and more like a gadget in terms of overall feel.

    Use Linux instead.

  • Re:Oh dear God no (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Weaselmancer (533834) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @10:43PM (#27176747)

    It wasn't a success, but it wasn't a brick, either.

    I remember those kinds of CE devices from that era. You're right. Not a brick, not a success. Definitely something in-between.

    I just can't see CE as a desktop OS, no matter how small. You need Platform Builder to tweak the OS. No swap file, so you have a hard limit on memory. No native compilers. Maximum number of processes is 32, unless you run CE6 where they bumped it up to 32k.

    Try to imagine Openoffice running on a CE device, what that would be like. Unusable, if you could even get it to port I'd guess.

    I just look at CE and think "gadget". The MS office apps are teensy and nearly unusable. Same for the web browser.

    It's like the difference between .NET and .NET Embedded. You just can't do very much with the embedded version - most of the interesting and useful stuff is missing.

    That's the impression CE gives me. If you want to run some small embedded user interface program in kiosk mode, sure. Fine for that. But I just can't see anyone getting any desktop-type work done on one. The OS seems simply too paired down to be that widely useful.

  • by emilv (847905) on Saturday March 14, 2009 @07:59AM (#27191603)

    On the contrary, I know a few non-techie people that use The Gimp on Windows with a Wacom tablet. They are happy with The Gimp, both because it's free and because it's a good tool to work with.

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